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Just who is Mirwaiz Umer Farooq?
September 05, 2005
All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq is in the thick of it all, because of the Hurriyat's talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Here's a quick guide to the Kashmiri leader:
Mirwaiz is the term for the hereditary leader of Muslims in Kashmir. In 1947, Umar's granduncle Moulvi Mohammad Youssuf Shah migrated to Muzaffarabad. Since then, his family, based in downtown Rajouri Kadal in Srinagar, has held the title of Mirwaiz.
Umer Farooq took over the title and politics as a teenager, when his father Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq, chief of the Awami Action Committee, was assassinated in May 1990. Before that, Umer wanted to be a software engineer. He has a master's degree in Islamic studies and considers the Internet 'a hobby.'
After taking over as the 12th Mirwaiz, Umer became the founder chairman of the Hurriyat in 1993.
The 32-year-old Umer is considered the more moderate of Kashmiri separatist leaders. He has a strong support base in the Bakras. The Bakras, traditionally well to do people based mostly in downtown Srinagar, have always been at the forefront of anti-India politics in Kashmir.
Over the years, analysts have seen attempts by Umer to move beyond his traditional support base by addressing gatherings from the Jama Masjid in New Delhi.
Umer tried to bridge the gap between his faction and the hardliner separatist leadership of Syed Ali Shah Geelani before the moderates visited Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Islamabad.
After the Pakistan visit, Umer seems more confident, and analysts attribute this to a message from Pakistan implying that it no longer backed Geelani's hawks.
Umar declared after the Pakistan visit that it was time to look beyond the United Nations for the solution to the Kashmir issue. It was a radical change of tack, even as recently as January this year, the moderate Hurriyat leader was all for a UN-sponsored solution to the Kashmir issue.
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